When and where are people most creative? An experience sampling study.

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Everyday creativity plays a significant role in positive psychological development. In addition, doing something creative is associated with feeling happy, active, and even relaxed. Two major factors are suggested to be highly connected to creativity development: personality and intelligence.

Thus far, however, research on the topic has been somewhat limited due to the use of retrospective reports, which are often complicated by recall bias.

In this study, however, researchers used experience sampling methods to allow for a more dynamic and accurate data set.

Participants were recruited from the Warsaw study pool. In 1974, the Warsaw study was conducted to explain determinants of life success. The entire cohort of 11-year-olds born in 1963 was recruited, and these adolescents were assessed on intelligence, school achievement, and socioeconomic status of the family. Follow-ups were conducted 2, 20, 21, 25, and 41 years after the initial trials. Recruiting these same participants for the present study allowed researches to use intelligence and school achievement scores as predicting variables for creativity.

74 of these Polish adults participated in a six-day experience sampling study. All participants reported that they were actively using their mobile phones everyday. Surveys were sent to their cell phones five times a day using an interactive voice response system. Participants were instructed to respond to questions based on how they were feeling in the exact moment of the call. Both between-person and within-person measures were implemented in the surveys.

Between-person measures included participants’ intelligence, personality (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience), and creative activity scores.

Within-person measures included 5 questions which were meant to assess place and affect of the individual at the time of the survey. Questions included:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. What have you been doing just before the call?
  3. Did you do something creative?
  4. How did you feel?
  5. Are there other people with you?

Following the conclusion of the experience sampling trials, multilevel modeling was used to assess both groups of data, and researchers found the following results:

Between-person measures revealed:

  1. Creative activity appeared to be quite common. 33% of the survey calls arrived at a time that a participant was engaged in creative activity. This is 10% higher than a similar study reported for a younger demographic.
  2. Only one personality trait appeared to be unrelated to creative activity: extroversion.
  3. Previous involvement in creative activity marginally predicted future involvement in creative activity.
  4. The likelihood of doing something creative at the moment was positively correlated with intelligence in childhood.
  5. The likelihood of doing something creative at the moment was negatively correlated with neuroticism.

Within-person measures revealed:

  1. The probability of being engaged in creative activity was four times higher at work than at home.
  2. The probability of being engaged in creative activity was two times higher at home than being elsewhere.
  3. Feeling relaxed was negatively linked to creative activity.
  4. Feeling excited was positively related to creative activity.

All-in-all, results show that creativity is a phenomenon that occurs daily amongst wide varieties of people. It can, however, be predicted by certain factors—one of the biggest of these predictors being childhood intelligence scores.

Experience sampling allowed researchers to better understand how creativity manifests itself in everyday actions and behaviors.

Want to learn more about everyday creativity in adults? Check out the full study!

Karwowski, M., Lebuda, I., Szumski, G., & Firkowska-Mankiewicz, A. (2017, April 27). From Moment-to-Moment to Day-to-Day: Experience Sampling and Diary Investigations in Adults’ Everyday Creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/aca0000127

Interested in making your own experience sampling study? Try the LifeData system!